Pinball video games have never been able to hold my attention.  I’ve tried many throughout the years but end up always abandoning them after a few rounds.  Having never grown up around arcades with pinball machines, the need to represent these attractions in virtual form seems somewhat arbitrary.  Considering this, I can say that Marvel Pinball 3D is one of the stronger pinball games I’ve played. The good use of 3D, which is surprisingly rare in Nintendo 3DS games, is also a treat.

Marvel Pinball has already been released as an add-on to the console versions of Pinball FX2, and while this version is not as fully fleshed out as that iteration, the handheld offering will still entertain players in addictive fits and bursts.  The game of pinball can go without much explanation, or so I hope for those diving into the title, and what will really matter for players is how fun the game tables are.

Four tables are available from the start and represent the game’s only choices: Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Captain America and Blade.  For the most part, the influence of these properties and their movie counterparts succeed in capturing the world of these characters and crafting entertaining environments.

Iron Man's table may be the smallest but it still packs some heroic thrills.

I found myself addicted to the majority of the boards, playing round after round to improve my score.  These tables are well-crafted and full of nooks and crannies to explore, allowing players to find new sources of points at every turn.  It’s a joy to watch the Blade table turn from day to night and discover the changes that occur when launching the pinball down paths in both modes.

Iron Man’s table felt like the weakest inclusion, if only because of its smaller size and lack of variation.  Still, I found myself frequently returning to it. One drawback to it, though, is that targeting the same few locations is a reasonable strategy. Given the small playing field, this became somewhat tedious.

Blade’s inspiration has led to an intriguing board I found myself playing more often than I expected.  The changes in lighting and the inclusion of a weapons shop on one side of the board are two standout aspects, but for the table’s middling size there are plenty of options for earning major points.

Show your support for the war and hunt down some nazis...with pinballs!

Captain America is not the most attractive table, but the characters standing atop it interact in several interesting ways when triggered.  The Cosmic Cube in particular is a fun piece of the board to interact with and leads to some amusing alterations.

The Fantastic Four offering is the largest and will likely take players a number of rounds to fully investigate.  Yet even with its relatively expansive size, it is still an easily navigable table with the proper aiming.  Luckily, each table comes with an in-game guide to highlight the many facets of the boards.  Each table also has 4 or 5 challenges to be completed, but even after these have been dominated, players will likely come back to improve their scores as often as I did and intend to do in the future.

With less content than its other versions, however, there is not much to see beyond these four tables.  A multiplayer “hotseat” mode is included, and players can combine their scores with those of their friends to increase their hero score.  Other than this incentive though, the tables demand replay simply because they are such well-constructed offerings.

The Fantastic Four table may require Mr. Fantastic's ingenuity to discover all of its secrets.

What may keep you returning to the title is the visual improvement the 3D makes.  The tables animate well and are fun to watch in 2D, but they truly shine with the 3D turned up to its highest level.  The tables come to life, and the 3D nature of a real pinball table, which would have railways and paths above the flat surface, is imitated so well that I rarely shut the 3D down.  It does not change the way the game is played, but the feature is so smoothly implemented that I think the download is almost worth the effect itself.  This authenticity is only improved by a physics engine that gives the pinball the verisimilitude of real weight to it, allowing each shot to feel true to how a real-life pinball would act on these boards.

I have always seen pinball videogames as more of a novelty than as truly enjoyable titles, but Marvel Pinball 3D is a fantastic entry into the genre.  While I’m not often a proponent of 3D, it improves the experience far more than I would have expected.   Marvel Pinball may not the most robust pinball game out there, but it can be easy to ignore the lack of content when what’s present is so addicting.

Here’s the Rundown:
+ 3D actually makes for a better playing experience.
+ Tables are addicting and encourage frequent replays.
– Total lack of presentation.
– There just isn’t that much here.

7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.

Marvel Pinball 3D was developed and published by Zen Studios for the 3DS.  The game was released on June 28, 2012 and is available via the Nintendo eShop for $7.99.  A copy was supplied to RipTen for review purposes.